Clay Culver thought the Civil War was the last battle he'd ever fight, until he got word of his sister's abduction-and suddenly had his own war to wage.
Ralph Compton:Rarely has an author painted the great American West in strokes so bold, vivid, and true. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 25, 2003
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Excerpt from Savage Cry by Charles G. West
People change. This was not a thought that often occupied Martha Vinings's mind at this particular time in the day. But it was a thought that had certainly come back to haunt her time and again since her marriage to Robert Vinings. Being of practical mind, she did not waste time lamenting the fact that the Robert who had wooed her so fervently and sincerely in Virginia -- with promises of undying love and devotion -- could become the dispassionate plodder who, pragmatic in his devotion to his mining claim, had seemingly lost all traces of the desire he had at first expressed. Maybe he was not to be blamed. The work was hard, and there were few pleasures offered in the rugged, unforgiving land that taunted and teased the many hopeful souls who sought to find their fortunes in her streams and washes. Few were the fortunate ones who struck it rich. For the majority, it was an endless succession of grueling toil over a ten-foot sluice box that offered little more than a pinch of the precious metal.
She straightened up to give her aching back a few moments' rest. As often happened, she caught the watchful eye of Robert's brother Charley, gazing intently in her direction. The faint trace of a smile turned up one side of his mouth, forming an expression that suggested thoughts inappropriate for a brother-in-law. Martha looked quickly away. She glanced across the sluice box at her husband, who never seemed to take notice of his brother's lecherous glances in her direction.
She thought now of the glowing enthusiasm Robert had possessed for the grand adventure he had planned for their honeymoon. At the time, anxious to escape the turmoil of the crowded farmhouse of her father -- and the difficult times after the Union army had laid most farms in the county to waste -- she joyfully accepted Robert's proposal of marriage. He had seemed so sure of himself, and of his plan to create a new life in the West, that she finally bought into his enthusiasm -- in spite of her father's misgivings.
It had been a heartrending experience to leave her mother and father, perhaps never to see them again. But she knew that it would be easier for her father to have one less mouth to feed during the hardships that were to come. Her three younger brothers would be more useful than she would in helping her father make a new start. She would miss them all terribly, especially her brother Clay, who had been away from the family since joining the Army of Northern Virginia in December of 1862 at Fredericksburg. Clay, older by a year, was her favorite. They had seen Clay only once since he marched off to war -- and that was a week before the last battle of Fredericksburg when the Yankee forces captured Marye's Heights and took possession of the town. She had prayed every night for his safe return, but there had been no word from him, even after Lee's surrender at Appomattox. When after a year there was still no word, her father assumed he was dead. But Martha could never bring herself to accept that fact -- not Clay, not the one person in the family who always looked after her and never teased her. He always had time to listen to her fears as well as her dreams. No, Clay was a special person -- too special to be killed by a Yankee bullet. She would not think of him as dead, preferring to keep a picture of his handsome, suntanned face tucked away in the recesses of her mind. He was just away temporarily.